Somme movie appeal gathering momentum

James C. Richardson VC.
James C. Richardson VC.

The producers of a short film about Scots-born piper, James C. Richardson VC, say they have reached almost a third of their fundraising target. Donations have come so far from supporters from 10 countries.

The film, Sound of the Somme, is about James Cleland Richardson VC, the 20-year-old Canadian Army piper killed in October 1916 during the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Like most squaddies, Richardson kept a journal of his experiences in the trenches and the last entry in it is essentially the storyline.

Producer, Alexander Menu, said: “The purpose of this short film is to tell the horrific situation in the trenches, the unstable weather conditions, but will mainly focus on how music and the sound of James’ bagpipes inspired many soldiers to go into an attack that first seemed to be doomed. The project will have a look and style from Hollywood, but have a European feel to it.” The script, co-written by Menu and Thomas Thomas Besançon, has already won several awards.

ssound of the somme t-shirt

A fundraising raffle is being launched this week with funds going towards the set construction of trenches. T-shirts have been produced as prizes for the raffle.

It is expected that the film will be complete towards the end of this year with screenings from December onwards. Menu told that, “it would be wonderful to honour a WWI bagpiper by meeting up with local pipers and members of pipe bands at film festivals once the film is completed and have them play tunes from the period.

Director, Michaël Vermaercke, said: “The true story of James C. Richardson makes this short film unique. We (re)live the terrible war through the perspective of the young soldier during the Battle of the Somme. An attack doomed to fail, turned into a victory thanks to the inspiring power of the music from his bagpipes. This proves once again what an enormous power the universal language of music can have, just as film can make an enormous impression on people.”

Richardson’s pipes ended up at Ardvreck preparatory school in Perthshire where they remained until 2006 when they were repatriated to British Columbia. They are on display at the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia in Victoria.

• See the November 2018 Piping Times for more on the Lanarkshire-born hero including Duncan Brown’s beautiful portraits.